There were a number of challenges facing the Met Office’s website. Having been left to its own devices for several years, the Met Office’s website had grown organically and unguided into a tangle of nearly 60,000 pages. Content, while invaluable to its audience, was siloed, hidden away from interested eyes and – worse still – was often misunderstood by those who did access it.
Meanwhile, despite its standing as a household name, the Met Office had become synonymous with the BBC’s weather section; with many believing that it was only the provider of data to the institution rather than a weather forecast provider in its own right. It was clear the Met Office needed to extend its reach and reputation.
We began by holding interviews with 12 of the organisation’s stakeholders to establish key objectives. These were to:
- Identify and personalise user journeys
- Boost visibility of the industry-leading content produced by the Met Office
- Increase reach and develop brand strength
- Push the boundaries of how weather information is communicated
- Capitalise on the Met Office’s bounty of data (of which it used just 1%)
Examining the sector
Our kick off workshop tackled channel mapping and recruitment criteria and helped to solidify our understanding of their audience. This was followed by a round of desktop and market research, and an analysis of their existing data. We examined competitors’ services, features, visuals and overall online presence. We found that while the Met Office’s data may inform many forecasters in the sector, it did not mean it was immune to competition.
The weather market is crowded and dominated by the Big Three (namely BBC Weather, Accuweather and The Weather Channel). But in between these larger names smaller companies were nestled; these occupy much of the app-reach the Met Office wanted to move into. But there are lessons to be learnt here – what these smaller brands lacked in reach they made up for in differentiation. Often the novelty of the experiences were enough, while others catered to niche demographics, like hobbyists or enthusiasts.
We then turned our attention to consumer research. Knowing weather impacts regions in varying ways, we sent our UX researchers (and now rookie meteorologists) around the UK to get wind of consumer pain points. We conducted reviews in Bristol, Glastonbury (due to its positioning on a flood plain), Manchester and the Brecon Beacons (thanks to its mountains).
For our rounds of user testing, recruits were made up of the general public (think dog owners and commuters); the health and safety concerned (those with hay fever or breathing issues like asthma); sportspeople (both grass-based and extreme); and business owners (one highlight being a vintage ice-cream stall owner). Testing revealed a whole roster of behaviours, motivations and lessons that we later used to build our personas.